Odd Society Spirits

Review: Salal Gin (Odd Society Spirits) by Jason Hambrey

Image Courtesy of Odd Society Spirits.

Image Courtesy of Odd Society Spirits.

ABV
30%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
BC Malted Barley, botanicals, and salal berries
Distiller Odd Society (Vancouver, British Columbia)

Salal berries grow naturally throughout BC, which are wild, furry berries full of tannins and anthocyanins - they are touted as a type of superfruit given all the healthy compounds. Odd society has taken these berries, and used them to create something similar to sloe gin, a popular spirit made with gin which has been infused with sloes (a relative of a plum) and often sweetened.

Using salal berries in this gin results in the creation of something similar, but distinctly west-coast. Salal gin begins with Odd Society’s Wallflower gin, to which salal berries. The berries add significant colour and flavour to the gin. This is a seasonal release, and this year, due to COVID-19, each release was based on berries from specific region: the Powell River and Haida Gwaii.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

The nose on this gin is so savoury (in the way that a good red wine or sherry can be)! Bright blueberry notes, forest floor, lemon, toasted coriander, clove, and a light licorice type character. The palate is very lightly sweet and dominated by berry notes (dried blueberry, dried elderberry), with a light sweetness, tannic character, and woody notes. The berry character is incredibly rich and penetrating – it’s bright but it’s almost dark with all the heavy fruity notes. There are light tannins that are perfectly balanced with the sweetness, and bring out the rich berry notes on the finish.

The gin is terrific in cocktails - it contributes a rich, deep blue/purple colour, tannins, and a nice berry jam flavour to cocktails. A few notable cocktails (provided by the distillery): “blood sugar sex magik” - 1.5 oz salal gin, 0.5 oz lime juice, 0.5 oz honey syrup (2/3 parts honey mixed with 1/3 parts hot water), 0.3 (10 ml) pastis, and 2 dashes angostura bitters - shaken and served in a chilled coupe glass. The cocktail really has great texture from the tannins, and the balance of bright acidity, berry notes, and licorice are just awesome. It’s quite elegant and deep. The finish is awesome.

The other cocktail to mention here is a margarita variation, with the salal gin standing in for the cointreau (the “salalgarita”): 1.5 oz tequila, 0.5 oz salal gin, 1 oz lime juice, 3/4 oz simple syrup shaken with ice and served in a rocks glass over ice. The colour is incredible, and it’s very different - you have the bite of the tequila, but accented by berry rather than orange - and the tannins from the salal gin add incredible texture to the cocktail. Very nice variation.

One of the best variations on sloe gin that I’ve had. I really like the tannic character of this, too - not only served straight or neat, but also in cocktails.

Assessment: Highly Recommended.


Review: Odd Society Powell Street Bourbon Style Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Odd Society Spirits.

Image courtesy of Odd Society Spirits.

ABV
46%
Aging
3 years; Virgin American Oak Barrels
Recipe
75% Corn, 20% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Distiller Odd Society (Vancouver, British Columbia)

This is the fourth brewery collaboration from Odd Society Spirits - a collaboration where the brewery does the mashing before the fermentation, distillation, and aging at odd society spirits. In this case, the mash was soured by adding acidulated malt (malt that has been subjected to a lactic acid fermentation after killing) before fermentation and distillation. Thus, it is similar in principle to a sour mash bourbon, but, of course, the process is different.

All the grains were sourced from BC, in accordance with the regulations of the BC Craft Distillery Certification. Particular attention in this case was paid to the corn, which came from the Okanagan valley.

As for the results of the collaboration - it sold out in one weekend!


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Powell Street Bourbon Style

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

The nose has a very nice bourbon-like character to it: the corn comes through quite well while being accented nicely with rye. The oak is quite dense, with tannins and vanilla quite present – and then we have fruits – fresh apple, apricot, but also stewed stone fruits and dried peach. There is a nice graininess, too – which I always like – a bit like a mixed whole-grain cereal like red river. With time (or water) the oak softens, and the nose evolves with the fruitiness, particularly, changing shape.

The palate showcases the sweetness of oak paired with the oily character of corn, finishing with a flourish of baking spice and dried flowers. There is dried fruit, light floral touches, and just a dash of spicy and grassy notes (like baby arugula). The oak is big, but balanced. A very nice release! My favourite whisky that I’ve had from Odd Society.

I think this is the best bourbon-imitation I’ve seen from a small Canadian producer to date. No wonder this sold out right away.

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average for the price, at $40/375 ml. Pretty impressive really – it’s very hard for small producers to compete against the bulk of the big producers on a cost basis. Suffice it to say I care a lot about value in my whiskies and I would buy this (if it were still available!)


Review: Maple Squared Single Malt Canadian Whisky (Odd Society Spirits) by Jason Hambrey

Image Courtesy of Odd Society Spirits.

Image Courtesy of Odd Society Spirits.

ABV
46%
Aging
3 yrs; Maple Syrup Casks
Recipe
100% BC Malted Barley, smoked with maple wood
Distiller Odd Society (Vancouver, British Columbia)

Last year, Odd Society Spirits released two whiskies into their core lineup - a spicy rye (Prospector Rye) and a rich single malt (Commodore Single Malt). They’ve added to that now with a very innovative whisky, built around maple. Odd Society smoked their malt with maple wood before making the whisky distillate. Then, they aged the whisky in casks which had been used to age maple syrup. Here is something original!


Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is sweet, woody, slightly smoky, and quite fruity. In other words: the nose has notes of oak, pear, brown sugar, clove, rich toffee, baking spice, brown sugar, light smoke, licorice, and walnuts.  It is still in the odd society spirits realm, but this is relatively rich in its woody character. The palate is sweet, rich, and full of woody notes, oaky spice, toffee, and a touch of smoke at the end. The finish is firmly focused on maple syrup, with a touch of smoke. I do like drying tannins in my whiskies on the finish, and this has lots of it.


Oh, I forgot to mention -  there is no denying the maple notes here (and that is a gorgeous flavour!). A touch syrupy, perhaps, but a lot of fun. On the flip side, too, the sweetness helps to round it out with the heavy wood influence.


Recommended (82% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). From a single malt perspective, this could age further, provided it didn’t get too woody– but that is perhaps not the point. This is unique, interesting, and I’ve quite enjoyed it.


Value: Average against the market, based on $76 for 750 ml. On the uniqueness side, though, this is a bit higher especially as the 375ml bottles come in at under $30.


Review: Prospector Canadian Rye Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Prospector+2.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
Virgin Charred American Oak
Recipe
100% Unmalted BC Rye
Distiller Odd Society (Vancouver, British Columbia)

This new 100% rye whisky is going to be one of the core whiskies produced by Odd Society, along with a continual set of experimental releases. It is 100% rye, matured in new oak - so expect this one to be a big, flavourful whisky.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

A rich, spicy, woody nose – cedar, oak, balsam – but loaded with baking spices, black tea, mixed grain porridge, brown sugar, and more. I do like rich, dense noses – and the cedar in this is awesome. Further, there is a good kick of dried fruit – apricot and peach, here – and some deeper, intriguing notes of sundried tomato and hibiscus. Some of the fruitiness and sweet toffee character are similar to Commodore – but this is very spicy and woody in comparison. The palate is rather pleasant, with loads more wood notes, tea notes, spice, and dried fruit – with a very agreeable level of tannin. The finish is spicy and dense, with wood and more dried fruit unfolding. Very nice! It opens up nicely with time, with more floral notes emerging.

I love to see the diversity of rye whiskies being released by Canadian producers. This is a completely different take on rye compared to Stalk & Barrel, Dillon’s, North of 7, or any of the big producers.

A nice release beside commodore! I like them both. This is more up my alley, to my preferences, and has a bit more complexity to it, but with that comes a sharper set of flavours and astringency so many might prefer Commodore. This, also, doesn’t show its youth as readily as commodore.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Another nice take on Canadian rye!


Review: Commodore Canadian Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Commodore+2.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
56 litre first fill ex-bourbon
Recipe
100% BC Malted Barley
Distiller Odd Society (Vancouver, British Columbia)

This is made from 100% malted BC barley, and will be one of the core whiskies going forward. Odd society has lots of experimental whiskies which will be released in 500 ml bottles. This is matured in a 56 litre ex-bourbon barrel. Previous releases were in 30 L ex-bourbon or ex-rye casks. Slowly graduating to larger barrels, and releases are expected to continue to get older as aging time increases.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This has a richer oak characteristic than the previous single malt from Odd society (to my memory) – hazlenuts, green pear, caramel, and a slightly dusty baking spice characteristic. The “texture” on the nose is fairly dry and spicy, but a creaminess emerges with time. A nice deep nose – the youth is felt but the aromas are vibrant. The palate is loaded with sweet wood – caramel, toffee, creamy vanilla – but we still have a spicy woodiness, pear, honey, and light tannins directing the show. Slightly tangy, for a good effect. The finish is slightly sweet, creamy, and has a nice kick of cinnamon. With time, the finish develops into a more complex set of spices – coriander, light cumin, and white pepper – and some dried coconut.

I like this quite a bit more than the Odd Society Single Malt I tied last year. The BC distillers are really coming along!

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. It’s not expensive as far as micro-distilled single malts go, and it’s nearly in the “average” category - but not quite. If you’re wanting to explore some of the more handcrafted/unique single malts, this is not a bad place to start.